Biophysical characterization and management effects on semiarid rangeland observed from Landsat ETM+ data
Semi-arid rangelands are very sensitive to global climatic change; studies of their biophysical attributes are crucial to understanding the dynamics of rangeland ecosystems under human disturbance. In the Santa Rita Experimental Range (SRER), Arizona, the vegetation has changed considerably and there have been many management activities applied. This study calculates seven surface variables: the enhanced vegetation index (EVI), the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), surface albedos (total shortwave, visible and near-infrared), leaf area index (LAI) and the fraction of photosynthetically active radiation absorbed by green vegetation (FPAR) from the Enhanced Thematic Mapper (ETM+) data. Comparison with the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) vegetation index and albedo products indicate they agree well with our estimates from ETM+ while their LAI and FPAR are larger than ETM+. Human disturbance has significantly changed the cover types and biophysical conditions. Statistical tests indicate that surface albedos increased and FPAR decreased at all sites. The recovery will require more than 67 years, and is about 50% complete within 40 years at the higher elevation. Grass cover, vegetation indices, albedos and LAI recovered from cutting faster at the higher elevation. Woody plants, vegetation indices and LAI have recovered to their original characteristics after 65 years at the lower elevation. More studies are needed to examine the spectral characteristics of different ground components.